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I love getting the chance to speak with non-library audiences about what libraries do, and was fortunate to have the opportunity to do just that a little over a week ago. I was invited to speak on a panel for a National Advisory Council meeting of the Reynolda House Museum of American Art about how libraries are responding to the online world.

I was able to go a little bit early and learn about the outstanding cataloging project that they’ve been working on, and I can’t wait until that is available online to browse. I also learned about the vision for the Reynolda House website, and I’m really excited about it. It’s a really forward-thinking approach, and I am certain there will be people from all over who will use the website regularly even if they never make it to the physical museum.

The panel was moderated by Reynolda House’s Sarah Smith and included (telephoned in) Deborah Howes, the Director of Digital Learning from MOMA and (physically there)Tim Songer, the President of Interactive Knowledge.

My section was entitled “This Library Is Not a Place” and focused on how libraries have been thinking for some time about how we should define ourselves as e-resources become more common and as people turn to other places (in addition to libraries!) for information. My argument was that libraries are about more than just where they’re located: it’s the services, the varied information containers, the collaboration that make us what we are and that it is possible to use the web to do a lot of that work. I also tried to be clear that all of our online services don’t replaces the physical experience, but they can enhance it and in the best cases make it even better. Here are my slides:

I also really, really enjoyed the opportunity to hear my fellow panelists. I took a lot of notes, but will mostly focus on a few projects that were highlighted here.

Deborah Howes

Tim Songer
  • Interactive Knowledge started out creating digital learning tools for libraries but has since shifted to focus on not for profit organizations and filmmakers that are informal educators
  • The company is not trying to sell products, but rather trying to solve problems. They’re trying to create sites that completely immerse the user in the content.
  • American Sabor is a parallel website to a traveling physical exhibit about Latino music. The website changed the physical exhibit to take advantage of some of the work they did online.
  • Flight and Rescue provides a cinematic way of telling the story of WWII Jewish refugees that fled to Asia for a temporary exhibit at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. This website allows people to continue to have access to the information from the exhibit,supported with a database that includes objects and oral history

Thanks to Emily Santillo and Sarah Smith for inviting me, I had a great time! (And particularly enjoyed being referred to as “the librarian” during the Q&A!)